Last Friday members of the Concerned Coaltion to Protect Prisoner Rights met with Georgia correctional officials. The following Monday they commenced the first of a series of fact finding visits to the state’s correctional institutions, seeking the reasons and right response to the stand of inmates demanding their human rights. Dr. King’s annual holiday is coming up too. What would he say about the prisoners and the nation’s misguided public policy of mass incarceration? What would he do, and what should we?
“‘The prisoners have done all they can do now. It’s up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.’”
Eight days after the start of Georgia’s historic prisoner’s strike, in which thousands of inmates in at least six prisons refused to leave their cells, demanding wages for work, education and self-improvement programs, medical care, better access to their families and more, representatives of the communities the inmates came from met in downtown Atlanta with state corrections officials. The community delegation, calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights, was headed by Ed Dubose of the NAACP of Georgia’s state conference, and included representatives from the US Human Rights Organization, the Nation of Islam, the Green Party of Georgia, The Ordinary Peoples Society, and attorneys from the ACLU of Georgia, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and elsewhere, along with state representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam.
State officials claimed they knew about the strike action well in advance, and said they locked the institutions down as a preemptive measure. They declared they’d confiscated more than a hundred cell phones, mostly in public places, and identified dozens of inmates whom they believed were leaders of the strike. They admitted confining these inmates to isolation and in some cases transferring them to other institutions.
The coalition asserted that brutal reprisals were being taken against nonviolent strikers by prison authorities, and that constant threats being made against inmates. These incidents, the coalition insisted, along with the vast gulf between the reasonable demands of the inmates and some of the well-known conditions in the state’s penal institutions made the immediate entry into the affected prisons by a fact finding team of advocates, community representatives and attorneys at the earliest moment an absolute necessity. The meeting adjourned awaiting the state’s decision. And late Friday afternoon, state corrections officials agreed to access by a small number of delegated observers, who would visit Macon State Prison, some two hours south of Atlanta the following Monday.
Curtis Johnson over at the NAACP hooked me up with an update from their end of the fact-finding mission. From NAACP.org:
“The NAACP is committed to determining whether any civil or human rights offenses have been taking place in these prisons,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The requests being made by the inmates – better access to their families, pay for their work, access to education opportunities – are not unreasonable, and could in fact lead to helping them successfully reenter society and become responsible citizens once they have served their time.”
“Prisoners are human beings and, like everyone else, should be afforded their basic rights,” stated Georgia State Conference President Edward Dubose. “We are here to say to the inmates, we have heard your voices loud and clear. The delegation’s visit was the first step in our efforts to investigate and address your concerns.”
The National NAACP has also called upon the United States Department of Justice, through its civil rights division, to urge federal intervention under the authority granted the Department by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq), to ensure that the civil rights of Georgia State inmates are protected.
Nuff said. I’d encourage the coalition to launch some actions online that will allow the JJP community and the general public to send emails, faxes and calls into GA corrections officials and the GA governor’s office so that they know we’re interested and are watching them…Cuz I think that’s what Dr. King would do.
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
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